Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles in the Humans of Wausau series, which is funded in part through a grant from the B. A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation. Follow the Humans of Wausau Facebook page here.

By Kelli Oligney for Wausau Pilot & Review

Josie Bartishofski, 19

Q: Where are you originally from? 

A: I’m from Wausau and went to Wausau East for my freshman and sophomore year. I was given the opportunity to train in wrestling for my junior and senior year in River Falls, which is about 2 ½ hours from here. Currently, I am going to the University of Jamestown in North Dakota, but live in Wausau for the summer.  

What sparked your interest in wrestling?  

My dad – he showed me his high school wrestling videos when I was in 1st grade. Years later, I received a letter at school about the youth wrestling program through Wausau East and I asked if I could try it and absolutely loved it.  

Do you have any siblings that wrestle? 

My younger brother just started wrestling last year, but I don’t know if he will stick with it; he’s only in first grade and doesn’t quite know his interests yet.  

Has wrestling given you any life advice? 

Yes, wrestling has taught me to work hard to get what I want. Since wrestling is an individual sport, I get out of it what I put into it. I think that has taught me life skills on being able to be where I want to be and keep working at it. 

Did you have any issues when you joined wrestling since it’s generally seen as a male dominated sport? 

When I was in elementary school, it wasn’t a big deal that I was wrestling with guys because we were little. Once I started getting older, it was more of an issue where people didn’t always support me in my decision to wrestle against the guys. If I had the option to only wrestle females, I would and is what I’m doing now in college, but I didn’t have that option when I was younger so I wrestled males. Last year, I wrestled a match and the guy wouldn’t wrestle me since I was a female. He stated it was due to being at a private school and against their religion, but I have different opinions on that. Other than that, some parents get hard on their kids if they lose to a girl. I want them to look at me as a wrestler. I’m out there because I want to wrestle. Not because I want to wrestle guys, but because I want to wrestle.  

How many other female wrestlers are at Jamestown? 

We had a team of 30 this last year.  

What was one of your most memorable wrestling moments?  

Last summer, I wrestled in Fargo at Women’s Junior Nationals and took second place. I haven’t always been the best wrestler and didn’t win a lot of matches growing up. In high school, we wrestled folkstyle, but against girls in the summer I started wrestling freestyle and that’s what they wrestle in college and the Olympics. Picking it up my freshman year was hard, but I worked hard and was given the training opportunity in River Falls for two years. I lived with a host family similar to a foreign exchange student program which was a great opportunity. It was always a goal of mine to make it into finals at a national tournament and last year I finally did. Even though I fell short of winning it, I will remember that experience of wrestling on a big stage in the middle of the arena. At the beginning of the match, our names were called and we’d run through a fog machine as we ran onto the mat. It was great to be in the spotlight and show others that hard work does pay off.  

What was the hardest moment of your life? 

When I tore my ACL in November because it meant I couldn’t wrestle for 6 to 9 months. I knew being off the wrestling mat for that long would be hard, but I have made the most of it and have grown mentally from it.  

What are you going to school for? 

I am going to school for Nursing. I am a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at Wausau Aspirus Hospital; this August will be four years there.  

What have you enjoyed about being a CNA? 

I started being a CNA before I went to college so I knew whether I’d like nursing and also have the ability to learn about their job. Working at Aspirus has helped me in knowing that I’m going down the right path. I enjoy helping others and being a CNA has given me the opportunity to do so.  

What are you planning to pursue with your nursing degree? 

I’m not sure yet. The nice thing is there are a variety of things I can do; I could work in a hospital or other settings. I’m thinking that I’d like to try travel nursing to experience and learn different things, but I’m not sure what field I’d like to work in. I do love sports so I wouldn’t mind a career in sports medicine.  

How did you choose Jamestown for school? 

I knew I wanted to go for Nursing and also wanted to wrestle if possible; Jamestown had both options and it was my top choice for an established wrestling program. My coach is great and she continues to wrestle and wanted to make it to the Olympics. She qualified for the Olympic trials, but that was postponed due to the Coronavirus. She gives us wrestling background and shares what works and what doesn’t from personal experiences. 

If you had to give advice to anyone, what would it be? 

You can do anything you put your mind to. Even though there’s more opportunity for women now, women still aren’t treated equally compared to men. Through wrestling I am able to show others that you can do anything you put your mind to. If you want to wrestle, you can wrestle. If you want to pursue a career that usually females don’t have, anyone can do it if you put the work into it.  

What hobbies do you enjoy? 

I love to run and used to do cross country in high school. I tore my ACL back in November and just got back into running. It’s hard because I can’t run as far as I’d like to yet, but it helps me clear my mind. I love journaling as well to get my thoughts down.  

What are your favorite memories from living in Wausau?  

I like fall and the variety of seasons. I remember one time, my grandma took my sister and me up the chair lift at Rib Mountain to see all the trees and changing leaves. I love the lakes and having the ability to enjoy them in the summer. After being in North Dakota, I’ve learned to appreciate the difference in climates.  

What changes would you like to see in the community in the next five years? 

My family and I bike a lot and most bike lanes here don’t help in safe biking. During rush hour, cars can’t get over for you because they don’t have the room either. Although, we do have a lot of other helpful bike routes that have been placed.  

What’s your favorite quote? 

My River Falls coach always told me, “If you know who you are, you know what to do.” I struggled with this quote because I had to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do. Over my time there, I spent a lot of time trying to figure that out and who I am. I know I want to help people, so whatever job I do, I want to have the ability to help. Even in wrestling, having a practice partner and being a part of a team allows me to help others and myself to know that’s who I am and that’s what I have to do.  

What motivates you each day? 

I always want to wake up and be better every day. My family motivates me to be better. My dad makes sure I’m doing what I’m supposed to; he asked today if I wanted to go with him on a run. I hopped on my bike while he ran; he holds me accountable, but I also have to hold myself accountable which is something my parents and coaches have taught me. I found ways to motivate myself in knowing that I’m not where I want to be, but I know how to get to where I do want to be. With my torn ACL, I know I want to get back on the mat, but I can’t unless I put the work in.  

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